Posted On May 31, 2017 by Print This Post

How to Develop Any Idea into a Great Story – by Susan Saurel

A big RU welcome to first-time Visiting Professor Susan Saurel!

Ideas are funny things. Sometimes you have so many that you could never hope to follow up with them. At other times, you’re so stuck for inspiration that you can’t get a sentence down.

Worse still, many of us have our best ideas when we’re in bed or in the shower. And, if we don’t write them down while they’re fresh in our minds, they disappear again. That’s why the first step in developing a great idea is to write your ideas down in the first place.

Consider carrying around a journal or taking notes on your mobile phone. Even taking a quick voice recording is better than nothing at all. Then take extra notes as you develop your ideas over time.

Now that your ideas are flowing, you’re ready to follow our simple four-step process for turning an idea into a story.

1. Pick the right idea

The best authors in the world – the Stephen Kings and the J. K. Rowlings – have so many ideas that they don’t know what to do with them. They’re able to release bestseller after bestseller because they can pick and choose from a bank of ideas.

That’s why the first step to developing your idea should be to pick the right idea. See whether it’s feasible before you commit yourself because it’s easier to start a project than to finish one. James Leipfold of explains, “Writing a story takes time and dedication. Many new writers abandon projects halfway through, jumping from idea to idea as they come up with them.”

Like Steve Jobs said, real artists ship. The sign of a true writer is the ability to pick the right idea and to stick with it from conceptualization to execution.

2. Carry out research

If you want your story to be believable, you’ll need to carry out research. Learn as much as you can about the subject that you’re covering by reading books and by searching for information on reputable websites. Visit places if you can, and check them out on Google Earth if you can’t.

This step is particularly important if you’re working on an essay or a piece of non-fiction, but it still applies if you’re working on a futuristic dystopian novel where humanity is enslaved by robot overlords. You’ll still want to take a look at how other writers have written about the future, as well as at what technology exists in the here and now.

It’s even more important to familiarize yourself with other work if you’re hoping for your story to be commercial. Any prospective agent, publisher or producer will want to know more about the competitive landscape – because it can give them an idea of whether your story is likely to be successful.

3. Take notes and make plans

This is where the fun begins. Buy yourself a notebook and use it to map out your idea. Build on it using your research and revisit it regularly. Remember, there’s no such thing as too many notes.

This is also where you’ll start to develop your idea into a full story. There’s no right way of doing this, but many authors choose to use the eight-point story arc. This popular way of telling a story keeps the action moving from the trigger (which causes the protagonist to start his quest) to the climactic confrontation, the reversal of power and the eventual resolution. Star Wars is a fantastic example.

You’ll also want to develop your characters. Luckily, you can start to do this by creating conflict. For example, identify a scenario that your character would hate to be in and make it happen. Remember, though, that conflicts don’t always have to occur between enemies – in fact, raising the tension between two allies can be even more effective, as bestselling author Janice Hardy explains.

4. Execute your idea

Anyone can have an idea – it’s the implementation that matters. A great idea is all well and good, but you’ll need to back it up with strong execution to turn it into a full story. Pay particular attention to the opening paragraph. Author Donna MacMeans says that “the first paragraph of a novel is a contract to the reader. It says, ‘This is what you can expect from me.’”

Unfortunately, nailing the execution isn’t as easy as it sounds. In fact, most creative writing courses focus on teaching you how to execute without covering how to develop your ideas in the first place.

The best way to do it is just to do it. Set yourself a timeline and stick to it. Take time out of your day to work on it. Focus on the finish line, but develop other ideas in a separate notebook at the same time.

That way, you’ll have plenty of other ideas to turn to once you’re ready to move on.

Your Turn

How do you take your ideas and make them happen? Do you follow a process? Let us know with a comment.

Bio: Susan Saurel is a writer from Texas. She’s ready to share her experience with her readers. To connect with Susan, follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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5 Responses to “How to Develop Any Idea into a Great Story – by Susan Saurel”

  1. What a great post! I had to laugh when I saw your comment about great ideas coming to you in bed or in the shower. That’s definitely me!

    Thanks for this very helpful post.

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | May 31, 2017, 10:42 am
  2. Welcome to RU, Susan, and what a great debut post! 🙂

    I have AquaNotes in my shower because that’s ALWAYS when my creativity seems to explode. I also have a massive file in Scrivener that holds random ideas and eventually I pick pieces to put together that meld into a whole.

    Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | May 31, 2017, 1:14 pm
  3. Hi Susan,

    I had a good chuckle reading the first paragraph of your post. Good story ideas come to me when I’m brushing my teeth. I keep a story idea file on my laptop, and the phone is very handy for note taking when I’m not home. Thanks for blogging with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | May 31, 2017, 1:35 pm
  4. I have a box that contains photographs (faces, people doing things, houses, gardens), newspaper and magazines articles, postcards. I once wrote a story after I’d just glimpsed a house from a distance – passing on the motorway – set on a hill, half hidden by woods. Who lived there, who was standing on his doorstep and why was she so cross? 🙂

    Posted by Liz | June 6, 2017, 1:01 am


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